Here is the exam case study “Alpha Supermarkets”.In the exam you will have to answer three online compulsory questions based on the case study. Question to follow on the exam Alpha Supermarkets Background Alpha is a successful company and one of the biggest supermarket chains in the UK, employing a large number of staff in stores across the country. In the early part of the century, Alpha successfully increased its market share through a policy of lowering prices and improving customer service. It currently holds a dominant share of the UK market, but its plans to continue expanding in the UK have been halted and it is planning to close smaller, less profitable stores. The reason for this retrenchment is a combination of competition from the German ‘discounters’ Aldi and Lidl and static growth in the industry. The organisation has undergone considerable change in order to improve its competitive position, placing greater emphasis on a customer-facing culture. As a senior human resource manager remarked, “2017 saw the evolution of a customer-focused business but with quality and price being very much the same across the sector, people and our service were seen as the differentiator. However, despite this the discounters are drawing us into a price war. We will need to rethink our whole business model”. Delayering took place as part of a restructuring exercise in 2017; within the stores there are currently four levels: store manager, senior managers (mostly operational managers), section managers and general assistants. Each store is run by a store manager whose job it is to provide coaching, guidance and support to deliver the Alpha ‘standard’. As one store manager explained “my role is to mobilise the team with a goal, to be energetic and to be able to motivate people”. There is a senior management team which includes operational managers responsible for departments and in an average sized store (employing around 400 staff) this would comprise five or six managers which typically would include the store manager, human resource manager, customer services manager and operations managers. The human resource function within the stores (all the bigger stores have their own HR manager) has undergone considerable change over the last five years, moving from a predominantly administrative role to a store-level senior management position. The role of the HR manager includes taking responsibility for the payroll and controllable expenses and ensuring that the store maintains productivity levels. This means focusing on people measures such as absence management, performance management, learning and development, resourcing and succession planning. A recent change within Alpha has been the drive for consistency across stores, and all policies, procedures and processes are centrally determined and their implementation closely monitored. Each store is governed by the company routines handbook which provides detailed information on how every task is to be performed. All HR policies and procedures are highly centralised and controlled – the wage budget for example is fixed for each store and there is no local flexibility on pay – something which is a cause for great frustration in some of the stores where recruitment, retention and staff quality are on-going major problems. Although the stores cannot function without these routines, it is the way in which the rules and routines are implemented that is considered a key ingredient forsuccess. It is management, in particular store managers, who are responsible for how policies are implemented and their behaviour is therefore critical to a store’s performance. Section managers occupy first line manager position within the store. Spans of control (the number of subordinates who report directly to a given manager or superior), are normally 12 general assistants to each section manager and in a large store there may be about 20 section managers covering different areas of the store. In addition to being responsible for the day-to-day running of their areas, section managers take responsibility for a range of people management tasks such as recruitment, training, performance appraisal, discipline and grievance issues, and pay enquiries. The nature of the job is very demanding – these staff have to work long hours, perform wide range of tasks and struggle to fill vacancies and absences on the shop floor. As one store manager, explained: “Section managers have to work very hard…they are more task-oriented than the senior team…ideally section managers should spend 70-80 per cent of their time managing but they do not always do this because of the demands of the job … they often have to fill in for absent employees and vacant positions, as well as fulfil their routine tasks, such as conducting regular meetings and other administrative duties. It’s one of the more pressurised roles.” This may partly explain why many stores face recruitment and retention difficulties with this position. A research study was conducted on four stores in a single geographical region. The stores selected for the study were located in market towns with similar economic profiles, in other words, thedemographic, labour market and income patterns in these towns were comparable. A total of 43 section managers were interviewed using a structured questionnaire, representing two-thirds of the section managers’ population in those stores. Their views were sought on their job, the HR policies and practices, the way their senior managers behaved and more general attitudes towards their work. Some of the results are summarised in Table 1.1. As Alpha is a highly centralised organisation with clear routines and policies, one would expect to find low levels of variation in terms of exercise of management discretion at store level. However, as Table 1.1 shows, there are wide variations in satisfaction with certain HR policies, such as influence over the job and in the way these managers themselves are managed, as well as variation in more general attitudes such as job satisfaction, motivation and commitment. In particular it is clear that Store C is out of line with the others. For example, in comparison to other stores, the section managers in Store C have a poor perception of the way senior managers carry out their people management roles (categorised under ‘leadership’ in the survey). For example only 18 percent of section managers in Store C feel their managers (i.e. senior managers) are good at responding to suggestions, compared to 82 percent in Store B, 60 percent in Store D and 27 percent in Store A. Table 1.2 shows some key operational performance measures for the stores. It is clear that again Store C was the poorest performer in a number of key areas. For example, its expenses were 28% higher than the average and its profit contribution was 34% lower. It was particularly poor at managing wastage (shrinkage), which at the time was one of the key indicators used by Alpha. In contrast, Store B had expenses which were 2.4 percent lower than average and profits were 21 percent higher. Table 1.1 Section managers’ satisfaction with aspects of HR policy and practice: four stores compared. Percentage of respondents who said ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied’ (number of respondents = 43) Store AStore BStore CStore D(a) HR policies · Training46823690· Career opportunities64915570· Pay4664960· Appraisal50826490(b) Controlling · Job influence828236100· Sharing knowledge (% good)64821870(3) Leadership Chance to comment on changes53721830Respond to suggestions27821860Deal with problems73825570Treating employees fairly641006470Provide coaching/ guidance (% to a great extent)46552740Respect received from your boss100916490(d) Outcomes Job satisfaction64736480Motivation (% motivated)55463640Advocacy (% proud to tell people who I work for)91734690 Table 1.2 Alpha performance data (2017-18) Percentage variation from regional average (20 stores) Store AStore BStore CStore DAvailability-0.10.6-0.80.3Waste/known loss-5.54.7-11.87.1Shrinkage/Unknown loss5.463.5-59.544.6Operating expenses as % of sales2.42.4-28.2-11.7Payroll costs as a % of sales-4.322.214.171.124Profit contribution-13.021.4-33.7-0.1Turnover £million42.671.148.754.8Please note: Positive figures show better than average performance, while negative figures show worse than average performance Answer ALL THREE questions. In answering the questions, you must use relevant concepts, perspectives and theories from the literature to support your argument. End of Case Study You are expected to support your answers with reference to relevant theory, which means that you will use in-text citations. Make sure when you answering questions from case study you should not just simply describing because this is something that happens with case studies you find students if a question is like for example what are the problems in the case study just basically listing the problems indicate we get you know No marks what we’re looking for is analysis and relevant theory. CASE STUDY ANALYSIS GRID Issues /problems you have identified in the case (one row for each)Evidence – how do you know they are issues?Actions/recommendations (what would you do to address these issues?)Relevant theory any theories or concepts you have come across in your reading that might be relevant (where you have a fairly detailed reference in mind, include your source/page number1. 2. 3. 4.
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